View some of the images, documents and other visual artifacts we uncovered during our two-year investigation
Episode 1: “Somebody knows”
Our reporting started where it all began: The courtyard of the military fort where 39-year-old Maurice Bishop, three cabinet ministers and four of his closest supporters were gunned down.
Photographer Jabin Botsford captured images of the fort as it stands today. Once named after Bishop’s father, Rupert, it is now known as Fort George.
You can still see bullet holes in the basketball pole.
When he came to power, Maurice Bishop was a charismatic young revolutionary who befriended Communist leaders. We found photographs of Bishop standing alongside Cuban President Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega, then a member of Nicaragua’s Sandinista junta, at a 1980 May Day rally in Cuba’s Revolution Square.
This was the height of the Cold War. U.S. President Ronald Reagan saw Grenada’s ties to Cuba — and by extension the Soviet Union — as a serious threat. He emphasized this in a live address on prime-time television on March 23, 1983: “Grenada, we were told, was a friendly island paradise for tourism. Well, it wasn’t.”
Bishop came to New York a few months later, on June 5, to address an enthusiastic crowd. He read from what he said was a “Secret State Department report” and told the audience it revealed the real reason the United States believed Grenada was a threat: “And if we have 95 percent of predominantly African origin in our country, then we can have a dangerous appeal to 30 million Black people in the United States.”
We filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department for the report Bishop cited, but we’re still waiting. They told us the “estimated date of completion” is Jan. 31, 2025. We also asked the State Department’s Office of the Historian about the report and were told they do not have “any information or resources to provide regarding this question.”
Ultimately, it was not the United States but tensions within Bishop’s own party that led to his undoing. Yet archival photographs like the one below, taken two days after his execution, show that Bishop held wide support among Grenadians even after his death.
That appeal is one reason this mystery still haunts not only the families of those who lost loved ones, but the entire nation of Grenada. As Bishop’s former press secretary, Don Rojas, told us: “The time has come, in my view, for us to bring closure to this and to provide Bishop’s life and legacy with a proper memorial. The time has come. It’s long overdue.”
To learn more, listen to Episode 1 of “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode 2: “We all had great expectations”
Grenada is an island nation of 125,000 people at the edge of the Caribbean. Many of the residents of this former British colony are descendants of enslaved Africans. (And if you heard “Grenada” and thought we were talking about a city in Spain, check the handy map below.)
By the 1960s, as Bishop was coming of age, Grenada was still a poor country, with many citizens still working on plantations as their grandparents had done.
There were also families like the Bishops. Maurice’s youngest sister, Ellen Bishop Spielman, shared this family photo and told us more about her family and her brother.
“We were very class oriented. You couldn’t come into our lives if you’re outside of our class. If I were to walk from school and talk to a taxi driver or servant’s child, I would be reprimanded. We’re pretty stuck up,” Spielman said.
Maurice “was very kind, very handsome, of course,” she said. “He was my doll. You know, I remember once he took a nap and I was playing with his hair and twisted most of his hair. And he got up and he was in a rush for a date and he couldn’t get them out.”
Sir Eric Gairy was the nation’s prime minister at the time. He was popular at first, but some Grenadians began to see him as power-hungry and corrupt, and he unleashed brutal violence on his political enemies. Here he is at a news conference in February 1974, joking that those who opposed him may have ended up in the cemetery, dead from “natural causes.”
The Grenadian revolution, which Bishop helped lead, was for many Grenadians a new beginning. In addition to the radio clips you hear in this episode, we also found videos that captured what life was like then.
We also heard stories about the downside of the revolution. As much as Bishop projected this idealistic vision of what Grenada had become, cracks quickly formed. Here’s a quote from his speech at Hunter College in June 1983: “The revolution has laid down as a law that nobody, regardless of who you are, will be allowed to be involved in any activity surrounding the overthrow of the government by the use of armed violence. And anyone who moves in that direction will be ruthlessly crushed.”
In 2001, the Grenadian government assembled a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate “certain political events” in the country, including activity during the revolution. The resulting report found that an estimated 3,000 people were arbitrarily detained over the course of Bishop’s four-year rule. Some later testified that they were beaten and tortured in jail.
There was also bitter infighting within the ruling party. We interviewed several people who had been dedicated members of the revolution. One, Christopher Stroude, had been a major in the Grenadian army.
“There was that belief that the revolution was slowing down. People were dissatisfied, you know, different levels. We were not able to deal with the different issues that people had,” Stroude said.
We pieced together our account of Oct. 19, 1983, from interviews with 18 people who were there that day, including some who would later be convicted of playing a role in the executions.
At least a dozen people were killed that day by gunfire. Others died or were injured when they leaped off the fort to escape the shooting and fell onto boulders 50 to 60 feet below.
Bishop and the seven others were lined up against a wall in the fort and gunned down. While the remains of others have been accounted for, the bodies of these eight people are still missing. We were unable to find photographs of all eight.
- Maurice Bishop, prime minister
- Unison Whiteman, foreign minister
- Jacqueline Creft, education minister
- Norris Bain, housing minister
- Evelyn Bullen, businessman and Bishop supporter
- Evelyn Maitland, businessman and Bishop supporter
- Fitzroy Bain, union leader and Bishop supporter
- Keith Hayling, member of the Marketing & National Import Board and Bishop supporter
Annie Bain told us about her husband, Norris Bain, who died alongside Bishop that day: “Every 19th of October, this thing comes up. Every 19th of October, 1983, that comes up. And no answer.”
But we found someone who does have an answer.
To learn more, listen to “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode 3: “We brought them to Calivigny”
To understand what happened to the bodies of Maurice Bishop and his seven allies, we needed to account for their every move, starting with the hours after the executions on Oct. 19, 1983. To establish that chain of custody, we had to talk to the people who were there.
A lot of the witnesses to these moments are no longer alive, but a few of them are. One of them, we heard, had an electrical repair shop in the middle of Grenada’s capital, St. George’s.
We walked down a narrow side street in the downtown area, searching for the shop. We found a faded sign for MP’s Electrical Services, where “Only the Best is Good Enough.” The shop is owned by Mandley Phillip.
Before he ran this repair shop, Phillip served in the Grenadian army, or the People’s Revolutionary Army. Phillip was at the fort the day Bishop was killed. He said he didn’t witness the executions, but he did see the aftermath. It’s still difficult for him to talk about it.
“When I saw what was done to Maurice, it was heartbreaking,” he said. “And the other comrades, like Norris Bain … Jacqueline Creft …” It took Phillip a long time to get the words out.
Later that night, Phillip received orders to dispose of the bodies. He told us he supervised the soldiers who had been told to drive the bodies to Calivigny, an area of the island then used as a military barracks. He watched as the soldiers put the bodies into a trench, stacked tires on top of the remains, doused them in gasoline and then set them on fire. He said that he and the other soldiers left — no one stayed behind to tend to the fire. Others reported that by the next day, the flames had dwindled to smoke.
We’ve talked to a couple forensic experts about this. They said they didn’t think these circumstances would result in the cremation of a body.
Six days later, on Oct. 25, 1983, the United States launched an invasion of Grenada. President Ronald Reagan held a news conference standing alongside Eugenia Charles, chair of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and prime minister of the Caribbean island of Dominica. We found a video of it on YouTube.
“Early this morning, forces from six Caribbean democracies and the United States began a landing, or landings on the island of Grenada in the eastern Caribbean,” Reagan said.
“Between 800 and 1,000 Americans, including many medical students and senior citizens, make up the largest single group of foreign residents in Grenada.”
The mission was named Operation Urgent Fury. It started with that first wave of U.S. troops. Reagan initially called the invasion “completely successful,” but that wasn’t the full picture. Nineteen American troops were killed during the invasion. Some of them were victims of friendly fire or accidents, including helicopter crashes.
The United States also accidentally bombed a Grenadian mental hospital, killing many patients. In total, more than 20 civilians were killed in the course of the invasion. At least 69 Grenadian and Cuban soldiers were killed.
We discovered a 1997 report produced for the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint History Office, which found that “problems beset the operation from the start.” “The success of Operation Urgent Fury was marred by the consequences of inadequate time for planning, lack of tactical intelligence, and problems with joint command and control,” the report said.
Colin Brathwaite was a detective in Barbados at the time. In his mid-30s, he was sent to Grenada to help investigate the executions, arriving just after the United States invaded.
Brathwaite was responsible for investigating the killings. So he interviewed witnesses and looked for evidence — including the bodies. “We received some, I would think, credible information of where the bodies were buried. My information was that the bodies were at Calivigny,” he said.
He said that he and a group of police officers didn’t go out to the reported grave at Calivigny until a few days later. We think this would have been several weeks after the executions. And when they got there, they found the trench. But immediately, he said he knew something was strange.
“The area was all dug up and there was caution tape around it, you know.”
Someone had gotten there before him.
During our reporting, we discovered a trove of photos by the Associated Press taken on Nov. 8, 1983, at the site of the burn pit, days before Brathwaite and his team of investigators arrived at the site. Some of the photos show U.S. soldiers removing what appears to be a body bag out of a pit in Calivigny. Brathwaite had never seen the photos before.
So what we know, based on the photographs and witness statements, is that the U.S. military found bodies in a pit at Calivigny. They exhumed them. It happened, at least in part, in front of reporters and photographers who were at the scene.
From our reporting, we also know that, two days later, those bodies were examined by a forensic team from the United States, which was tasked with determining whether these remains belonged to Bishop and the other people executed with him.
But the United States never disclosed the results of the exam to the public.
In Episode 4, we learn what they found.
To learn more, listen to “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode 4: “The Army wants to look at some bodies”
Warning: This episode contains graphic descriptions of human remains.
Just a few hundred feet from Grenada’s most famous beach is a dilapidated one-story building. It’s the old anatomy lab at St. George’s University, the medical school in Grenada. It’s no longer in use; the school built a new lab on a different campus many years ago. We came here with Robert Jordan, a recently retired anatomy professor who taught at the university for 40 years. This had once been his office — and also the site of a mysterious forensic examination.
In November 1983, Jordan was asked to open up his lab for a team from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. They wanted to conduct a forensic exam of remains recovered at the Calivigny barracks. Jordan offered his assistance.
In Jordan’s memory, four body bags were brought in. They were placed on the metal tables his students used for dissections. But when he looked inside, he found the bodies were damaged beyond recognition. They were more like body parts.
Jordan is not a forensic scientist. He had no professional expertise in bodies with that level of trauma and decay. But as an anatomy professor, he had spent time looking around the insides of bodies. And a few things stuck out to him:
- There were not enough bones to account for the full skeletons of eight people. His best guess was that the bones came from five people. “There were no, very few intact bones. The long bones — especially most of the long bones — were splintered and burned.”
- None of the bones seemed to match Maurice Bishop’s physical stature. Jordan had met Bishop at cocktail parties at the university, and knew he was tall — about 6’3”. “The femurs were cut, burned. But by a piece of it, we could tell how long it was. None of those bones were long enough to be Bishop’s,” he said.
- He remembered seeing three pelvis bones, one of which he identified as belonging to someone who has given birth. “One of which has little grooves in it, which tells me, as an anatomist … these are birthmarks. … That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, she’s had a baby.’ So, that was hers. I just, in my mind, quickly thought about it,” he said.
- They also found personal items in the body bags. They discovered a wallet that contained a bill from Bain’s hardware store — the business owned by Annie Bain and her husband, Norris, the executed housing minister. There were also items associated with Fitzroy Bain and Evelyn Maitland, two other people executed. And they found a woman’s dress, which was partially burned.
In all, it was a long day of grueling work. The day after the examination, the remains were put back into the body bags and retrieved by the Americans.
Jordan said he never heard anything else. Years later, he started to wonder what came out of the exam in his lab. So, he asked the Americans he had worked with that day. They sent him this document: Consultation Report on the Identification of Remains — Grenada, West Indies.
In the top left corner, you’ll see the seal of the U.S. Defense Department. There’s also a date — Dec. 12, 1983 — about one month after the conclusion of the forensic exam in Jordan’s lab.
Jordan said he was surprised by some of the details he felt the report had gotten wrong. For example, the report said: “We found no identifiable anatomic evidence of female remains.”
It concluded: “The material available for examination and the records available for comparison are insufficient to establish the identity of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, members of his Cabinet, or other persons who allegedly died at Fort Rupert, Grenada, on 19 October 1983.”
Jordan agreed that the evidence was insufficient to identify Bishop. But he was surprised that the report also said the cabinet members couldn’t be identified. They had seen those items that belonged to Minister Norris Bain, Fitzroy Bain and Evelyn Maitland, and a dress that the report said “reportedly” belonged to Jacqueline Creft.
So to him, there had been enough there to suggest that the cabinet members could have been among those remains.
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology — the agency that wrote that forensic report — has since been divided into three government entities: The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the Joint Pathology Center, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Officials with each agency told The Post they had no additional information about the report because it predated them.
We also submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the Joint Pathology Center and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. They said they conducted extensive searches and had “no records responsive to the request.”
We asked an archivist at the National Museum of Health and Medicine to pull boxes and files on Grenada, but looking through them, we found nothing relevant.
So, we then tracked down members of the “Grenada 17,” the group of people convicted of killing Bishop and his supporters. Though many of the 17 are still living, not everyone we contacted agreed to an interview.
But Joseph Layne, who was accused of giving the order to execute Bishop, and who helped decide what to do with the bodies afterward, agreed to speak with us.
Layne was a senior officer in the People’s Revolutionary Army and had stood by Bishop’s side at the start of the revolution. He told Senior Producer Ted Muldoon why the bodies were moved to Calivigny after the executions:
LAYNE: “The core reason for moving the bodies to Calivigny was just, if you want to put it, the fear of what would happen, what could happen. It inflamed the situation if the bodies were handed over —”
MULDOON: “So the initial reason was to hide the bodies just until you figured out what —”
LAYNE: “Well, if you want to use the word ‘hide,’ I don’t think that is an unfair description. Yeah, I think that’s a fair description.”
Layne and the others we spoke with acknowledged that the bodies were taken to Calivigny and burned. But they have always said they did nothing else after that. They also note that photographs show U.S. Army soldiers at the grave. Photographs also show soldiers pulling bodies from the grave. Yet, U.S. officials have said they do not know the whereabouts of Bishop and the others killed with him.
As we went back over the timeline of what we knew, we realized there’s a stretch of days that is difficult to account for: The two weeks between the start of the U.S. invasion on Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, when the remains were removed from that pit.
And when we looked more closely at that part of the timeline, we discovered something else — something that involved the U.S. government.
Listen to Episode 4 of “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode 5: “An ugly, dirty job”
Stephen Trujillo was an Army Ranger medic during the U.S. invasion of Grenada. In 2017, he self-published a memoir that included details about what happened at Calivigny that may offer a new explanation for part of the mystery around the remains of Maurice Bishop and his supporters. This summer, we tracked him down, and he told us his story.
On Oct. 25, 1983, Trujillo and his fellow Rangers parachuted onto the island. He said they quickly overpowered the Cuban resistance and took control of the airfield. They killed many Cubans that day.
“But it was war. I was a soldier. They were soldiers,” Trujillo said. “And this is what happens when old men send young men to war. We fight and we kill each other for really stupid reasons most of the time.”
The next day, Trujillo and his platoon rescued the American students on the medical school campuses. They thought their job was done, he said. But on Oct. 27, they received a new mission.
The Rangers were ordered to prepare for an attack on Calivigny, where the last of the Cuban and Grenadian holdouts were believed to be hiding. Trujillo said that one commander was angry because there was little time to prepare for the assault, and they lacked intelligence about the potential threat.
“He said, ‘My Rangers are not going to go unless you make it a parking lot.’”
So Calivigny was bombarded. Trujillo and his platoon watched from the airport nearby as the U.S. Army fired artillery toward Calivigny from the ground, and U.S. Navy aircraft circled overhead. We learned later from U.S. Navy accounts that the aircraft were dropping cluster bombs called Mark 20s and 500-pound bombs known as Mark 82s. They were also firing thousands of rounds of ammunition.
When the Rangers attacked, Trujillo was in the lead helicopter. “I could see the ground sweeping beneath us. It’s all on fire,” he said. “It’s just rubble and it’s all on fire. And the structures that were on the target were blown up.”
Then something went wrong. The Black Hawks following Trujillo’s helicopter collided. Sgt. Stephen Eric Slater, Specialist Philip Sebastian Grenier, and Specialist Kevin Lannon were all killed during this landing. Lannon had been a close friend of Trujillo’s.
Amid the chaos, Trujillo brought wounded soldiers to safety, including his platoon leader, whose life Trujillo is credited with saving. For his actions, Trujillo was later awarded a Silver Star.
There were craters from artillery and bomb blasts all around them. So the Rangers used them for cover. They said they huddled inside the craters overnight — amid the unmistakable stench of death. In the morning, they realized why. Trujillo told us: “Mike Farmer woke up the next morning. I mean, everything smelled like death, okay? But he woke up to find that he had slept in the embrace of a corpse, rotting corpse that had been there in the ground. … They had been dead not for a long time, but for a while.”
The bodies, at least one male and one female, had been decomposing for days, he said. At the time, the Rangers didn’t know who they might have been. But according to several Grenadians we interviewed, the bodies were found in the same location where Bishop and the seven others who were executed had been buried.
Trujillo’s account suggests that the mass grave may have been inadvertently bombed by the U.S. military on Oct. 27, almost two weeks before the remains were exhumed. That could help explain why bones were broken apart and fragmented, and why Robert Jordan, the anatomy professor, said the remains looked like they had been “dynamited.”
We obtained aerial photographs of Calivigny from the Naval History and Heritage Command. This one shows the area on Oct. 26, the day before the raid by the Army Rangers.
This second photo shows Calivigny on Oct. 28, the day after the raid. If you zoom in, you can see a polka-dot pattern in the ground on the left, which could indicate the area had been hit by munitions.
This third photo shows the area on Oct. 28 from a different angle. The Navy provided us the image, with annotations in red ink; we don’t know who made the markings. Just to the left of the circle in the lower left-hand corner is the location of the pit where we believe the bodies of Bishop and the seven others were buried. The nearby building has been destroyed.
We shared these images with Brian Castner, a former explosive ordnance disposal officer in the U.S. Army. He now works for Amnesty International and investigates the use of weapons in conflict zones. We asked him about the possible impact of the bombs we know were dropped on the area.
“Unfortunately, I can’t give you a standard answer of how far away people would be hurt and killed necessarily,” he said. “But I would just say, generally, it can be hundreds of feet, many hundreds of feet in all directions that a person could be injured either by the blast or the fragments.”
Castner clarified that just because a bomb might have hit the site next to the pit doesn’t necessarily mean that would have affected what was inside it. And he said that he couldn’t definitively conclude whether the pit itself was hit.
We also shared with the Pentagon and the State Department our findings that the mass grave may have been bombed. The State Department again responded with the same one-sentence comment: “We have no knowledge of or information about the remains of Prime Minister Bishop.”
A spokesperson from the Defense Department said: “The Department was not able to find any existing records or documents related to this case that can confirm the information presented.”
We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Navy for additional photos or other records of the bombing at Calivigny. Officials released two new photographs, including the one with the red markings above. But there were 31 additional pages “potentially responsive material” that officials declined to release, saying they contain “classified national security information.” We have appealed the decision.
Then we heard an account about something else that may have happened to Bishop’s body — one that suggests the United States hasn’t told the whole story. That’s next time on the final episode of “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop.”
Listen to Episode 5 of “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episode 6: “I know what I saw”
Early access is available now to Washington Post subscribers on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else Nov. 22.
After hearing the Army Ranger’s story in Episode 5, we started searching for more Americans who were involved in the recovery of the remains found at Calivigny. We began with the Associated Press photographs of the exhumations that you saw back in Episode 3. We zoomed in on the photos to scrutinize partial names on uniforms, and we scoured newspapers from the time for the names of any soldiers mentioned in stories. You can hear our attempts to reach some of the people we identified. But one in particular stood out.
Second from the right, wearing a dark beret with a camera around his neck, is an intelligence officer from the Jamaica Defense Force named Earl Brown. He remained largely unknown until 2000, when a group of Grenadian high school students, with help from their principal, tracked him down via email. As part of a class project, the boys were trying to solve the mystery of the missing bodies. Brown wrote them back. Here’s what he told them:
Brown said that he had been the lone Caribbean peacekeeper on the scene as the American soldiers recovered the remains. His email would cast the mystery in a new light.
The Calivigny remains were recovered on Nov. 8, 1983. When body bags were brought to the medical school anatomy lab two days later, they contained “charred, fragmented tissue in a state of advanced decomposition,” according to the U.S. military forensic report we obtained earlier.
But Brown told the students he saw intact bodies with skulls in the pit. That made us wonder: If the bodies were, in fact, identifiable when they were exhumed on Nov. 8, why were they in such a different condition two days later? Was it even the same set of remains? We needed to find Earl Brown.
After more than a year of searching — including calling every Earl Brown listed in the Jamaican yellow pages — we found him living in California. He agreed to be interviewed and to pose for a photograph.
His full interview with Powers and the team is gripping. Here are some highlights:
1. Brown said he saw five bodies: one female and four males.
Powers: You know it’s five for sure?
Brown: Five bodies. One female. Four males.
Powers: How did you know that —
Brown: How do I know? Because of the clothes that they were wearing. And we had actually talked about, ‘What were they wearing at that time?’ So we know the mode of dress that they were in and who was wearing what. And also, it was one of the … grave digging team members pointed out, because they started pulling there, like, ‘Oh, this the female here.’ Y’know, and you could see male genitalia, so you knew what was male and what was female. It was right there.
2. He said that Maurice Bishop was identified as one of the bodies.
Powers: So at that time, did you think it was Maurice Bishop?
Brown: Yes. Yes. We all did. Yes.
3. Brown said the American soldiers then put each cadaver in a separate body bag and the five bags were loaded onto a helicopter. An American commander told Brown they would be flown to an American ship.
Brown: They were placed on a helicopter and shipped out to one of the ships that were offshore.
Brown: They were sent to a ship that was waiting offshore, and we were told that they were going to be sent to the United States to do further DNA on it. Forensics.
4. Brown’s account has remained consistent. He said he was stunned years later when he learned from a journalist that the whereabouts of Bishop’s remains were still a mystery.
Brown: And I said, ‘What do you mean they don’t know? Maurice Bishop’s body was recovered.’ He said, ‘Well, the Grenadian people don’t have his body.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ Because I know what I did. I know what I saw. I know he got recovered. So I’m like, ‘I thought the Americans handed it over to the Grenadian people.’ And it was like, no, it was never handed over. And then he went on to say, ‘There’s been a big dispute about the Americans saying, “No, they never got his body.”’ And I’m like: ‘Uh, really? That seems odd.’
We also spoke with Brown’s former commander. He didn’t want to be named or be recorded for the podcast. He said he never saw the bodies himself, but he remembers receiving reports from Brown about finding five bodies, including one that was identified as Bishop. He told us we could trust Brown’s memory.
Brown also said he photographed the exhumation, using multiple rolls of film, and that he took notes. Brown said he left his documentation with the JDF when he retired from the military. We filed an Access to Information request for the notes and photos, and we’ve been told by the JDF’s Media Affairs Department that “the request was sent to higher authorities for approval.”
Brown said he believes that he and the Americans were the first to visit the burial site. But we found a U.S. State Department report dated Nov. 6 that suggests the Americans knew of the site two days earlier. You can read it here.
We also tracked down another account from an American in Grenada at the time that suggests the Americans might have been aware of the site sooner. Charles Gillespie Jr. — also known as “Tony” Gillespie — was a diplomat in the U.S. State Department in the 1980s. Right after the U.S. invasion of Grenada, he was sent to the island to serve as a temporary ambassador for a few months and help restore diplomacy.
Gillespie died in 2008. But a little over a decade before his death, he gave a series of interviews about his career to an organization called the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. These interviews, which you can find in the Library of Congress, were extensive. The transcript is almost 600 pages long. We also obtained a copy of the interview audio, which you can hear in this episode. Here’s Gillespie in Grenada, after the invasion:
In his interviews, he described two significant events. In the first, Gillespie talked about escorting a U.S. congressional delegation from Washington around Grenada to show several lawmakers the island and help make the case for the invasion.
“And we start our major show and tell for these guys, and they do their inquiries and we’re moving them around: ‘Remember, Marines have been killed in helicopters here, and this was the headquarters and this is the hospital that was attacked and this is where these incidents happened and this was all shot up and this is Bishop, where Bishop’s body is,’ and so on and so forth …”
The delegation arrived on Nov. 4 and stayed through Nov. 6, two days before the exhumation, which suggests that Gillespie may have been aware of the grave earlier. It’s important to note that there are other details in Gillespie’s oral history that he gets wrong or misremembers. We also interviewed several people who were a part of that congressional delegation who are still alive, and none of them said they remember being shown human remains.
Gillespie also spoke about a forensic exam he attended.
Gillespie: The things we didn’t get into were some of the little details… Maybe, I don’t know if you want to get into them.
Interviewer: No, let’s just put them in.
Gillespie: Yeah, the forensic stuff on Bishop’s body and actually having to go out with a team from the… What is it? The Armed Forces College of Pathology or whatever…
Interviewer: Uh, Institute of Pathology.
Gillespie: Institute of Pathology. Those guys, they were just remarkable, going over these remains, and they wanted me. … They said, ‘It’s really important for you to see what we’re doing and understand it so you can explain it.’ And … and some of the stuff you’re called upon to do as a [Foreign Service officer], it just seems to me, is always remarkable …
When we first heard this, our assumption was that Gillespie was describing the exam performed in Robert Jordan’s anatomy lab. But maybe it was something else.
Jordan, the anatomy professor who assisted the AFIP during that exam, told us he doesn’t remember Gillespie being in the lab — though he said he can’t rule out the possibility that at some point he stepped in and he just doesn’t remember. We talked to someone from the State Department who recalled that Gillespie said he went to the exam, but he doesn’t remember whether Gillespie told him that Bishop’s body had been identified.
On the next episode, we follow the trail of those remains the AFIP examined.
Listen to Episode 6 of “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Episodes 3 to 7 will be available early to Washington Post subscribers on Apple Podcasts. Connect your Post subscription to Apple Podcast by looking for the Washington Post channel.
- Episode 1: “Somebody knows”
- Episode 2: “We all had great expectations”
- Episode 3: “We brought them to Calivigny”
- Episode 4: “The Army wants to look at some bodies”
- Episode 5: “An ugly, dirty job”
- Episode 6: Available now on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else Nov. 22
- Episode 7: Coming Dec. 4 to Apple Podcasts and everywhere else Dec. 6
Have a tip to share? Contact “The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop” team at [email protected].